Fast of Esther and Purim

This feast celebrates the Bride (the Church) being redeemed from the slave market of “religion” so that she can be betrothed to Christ on the Feast of Passover. All temple activity stopped for the reading of the Book of Esther.

The Megillah of Esther (megillah means “scroll” in Hebrew) is one of the five megillahs that are included in the biblical canon. These books are all relatively short and are part of Ketuvim (the Writings portion of the Torah that comes after the Pentateuch and the Prophets). They are: The Song of Songs (Shir HaShirim), Ruth, Lamentations (Eicha), Ecclesiastes (Kohelet) and Esther. Of these, Esther is the only one to be commonly read from a handwritten parchment scroll.

This is a day of friendship and joy, and the celebration of God at work behind the scenes (God is not mentioned even once in Esther), and a turning from our own false perception of “Good” and “Bad”.

This feast is celebrated with a communal reading of Book of Esther. Traditionally, every time the name "Esther" is said, everyone is encouraged to toast the bride with a sip of wine. Some would encourage a toast that contains her name multiple times! However, because of drunkenness, this practice has been discouraged by rabbis. Nevertheless, we celebrate it this way because it is fun, and reveals some things of interest. In addition, the reading of the name "Mordeci" should be cheered, the name "Haman" is to be booed such that the name cannot even be heard. With the effects of the wine from toasting the bride, it becomes increasingly difficult to do the right thing (the "Good"). Ultimately, the "most spiritual" will either boo Mordeci or cheer Haman...showing that good and bad are just a construct of our minds. Remember that eating the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil was a "bad" thing!!! We are called not to judge, but to rely on Christ for everything...including what is "good" and "bad".

Purim, which literally means “lots” (a special kind of dice) and is sometimes known as the Feast of Lots, is the Jewish holiday during which Jews commemorate being saved from persecution in the ancient Persian Empire. According to the Book of Esther in the Torah, the Jewish people of the city of Shushan were threatened by the villain Haman, a prime minister (vizier) who convinces the King Ahasuerus to kill all the Jews (because the Jewish Mordecai refused to bow down to Haman). Haman casts lots (hence the name of the holiday) to determine the date he would carry out his plan: the 13th of Adar.

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We do not know who wrote Esther, but it was a Jew (or Jews) who lived in a Persian city…around 486-464BC. The author's central purpose was to record the institution of the annual festival of Purim and to keep alive for later generations the memory of the great deliverance of the Jews.

A central theme is the opposition of the Amalekites, of which Haman is one. The Amalekites represent the world against us...used by God to force us to rely on Him and abandon our foolish pride. Had Israel wiped them out as God had instructed, this plague would not continue. But, the "bleating fo sheep" continues (1 Samuel). Eliphaz, son of Esau (the patriarch Jacob’s brother and sworn enemy), and his concubine Timna had a child named Amalek. Amalek grew up in Esau’s household, imbibing Esau’s pathological hatred of Jacob’s descendants along the way. His offspring became the nation of Amalek, and they lived to the south of the Land of Israel, in what is now known as the Negev Desert.

God is not mentioned. he Megillah is among the only books in the scripture not to mention God’s name at all. You may wonder what is so holy about it? In a sense, this omission itself is what makes the story of the Megillah unique. Hidden under the drama of palace intrigue and politics, G‑d’s hand is apparent. From the very outset, He stacked the circumstances so that as soon as the Jews would repent and pray, things would fall into place and the Jews would be saved.

Long before Esther’s time, the people of Israel and Judah had been dispersed throughout the Near East by the Assyrians and the Babylonians. Eventually the Persians absorbed nearly all of these lands into their empire, which reached its greatest extent during the time of Esther. Thus Haman’s plot to exterminate all Jews throughout the Persian Empire would have annihilated virtually all of the Jewish people, and Esther’s daring actions saved the whole nation from complete destruction.

Esther is part of a much larger story that runs all the way from Abraham to Christ and, through Him, to the church. If Haman had succeeded, the Jewish people as a whole would have been destroyed, and the story of God’s saving work in and through Abraham’s descendants would have come to an end. There would have been no fulfillment in Christ, and therefore no gospel and no Christian church. Christians should read the book of Esther, not just as a story about the Jews but as part of their own heritage. Christians are not obliged to observe the Feast of Purim, but they are to take to heart the truth that God providentially watches over his own (Rom. 8:28).


Graphics for this page were grabbed from several sources, including ESV.org - click: ESV.ORG and from Tori Avey's site